“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” - Saint Augustine
Lent is here and during this Holy season, it is a graced time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. “Turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel.”
In recent years, unfortunately, the Sacrament of Penance has turned into the forgotten sacrament of the Catholic Church. The confessional has been abandoned by large numbers, and now only a few make regular use of this Sacrament of God’s mercy. As a consequence of this, people are losing their sense of sin and teens are growing up without this awesome gift. If we do not help make them aware of sin or imperfections in their lives, they will see no need to go to confession.
As Catholic youth leaders, we are responsible to teach and uphold Catholic moral values and invite youth back to the Sacraments. Penance is one of the most consoling of the seven sacraments, for it recalls the many times in the Gospel Jesus had pity on poor sinners. As a youth leader, model God’s mercy and invite young people to not be afraid to approach the God of love and mercy. Here are a few highlights that are fruits of the sacrament:
- Freedom. Teenagers experience the forgiveness and healing that comes from being set free from sin by bringing their sins to the light of Christ.
- Accountability. Youth become responsible for their lives, for how they think and act. They are obliged to examine how their words and actions have hurt others, and how their lives do or do not reflect God’s commandments.
- Commitment. By participating in the Sacrament of penance, young people implicitly, if not explicitly, recommit their lives to the Gospel. The teenager is saying, “I want to turn away from sin.”
Let’s make it our mission to transform penance into the “Remembered Sacrament.” The Sacrament of Penance is a great gift of our Church. The book of James says: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Providing teens with opportunities to receive the Sacrament and integrate it into their spiritual life will help them to positively deal with the sin in their lives by leading them to discern their choices, experience forgiveness, and move forward with accompanying works of penance.